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    Thread: Driven: Ford Focus ST

    1. Senior Member
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      09-30-2012 06:11 PM #1
      En route home from running an errand, I noticed our local Ford dealer had a white Focus ST sitting front of lot. An impulse prompted me to pull in and take a look at it.



      This car was a 201B package, which meant it had the Recaros, moonroof, and MyFord Touch. One reason I'm interested is that I own a 2012 GTI, the car the ST has been frequently benchmarked against.

      I'll talk about the good stuff first:
      Engine: Everything that's been written so far is true. It's great. Sounds good, very flexible, pulls HARD. If it has rev hang, it's minimal compared to the GTI (one of my biggest pet peeves about the TSI motor). It's a sweetheart.

      Transmission/Clutch: Clutch is definitely heavier than the GTI, and engages very near the floor--took a sec to learn that. Transmission feels more like a rod linkage--again, heavier than the GTI but much less slop. I really liked it. Not a huge fan of the shift knob though.

      Steering/Handling/Ride: Ride is a bit firmer but more controlled than my GTI; by contrast the GTI doesn't feel as well damped. Steering is fantastic; it turns in quickly and eagerly. I'd love to attack a back road with it. The steering does go a bit stiff under hard acceleration; you can feel something attempting to quell torque steer and it does put the steering off. Handling feels very composed, and the one cloverleaf I was able to throw it into you could feel the rear end come out just a bit under lift-off. I could see this car making unexpecting drivers have an moment if they throw it into a similar corner, lift off expecting nothing but understeer, and have it do quite the opposite. Kudos to Ford chassis engineers for pulling that off.

      Exterior: Not as subdued as the GTI, but nicely done overall. The center exhaust finisher is an interesting touch. Big bummer for me that you have to pony up for the top spec car to get HID's. That, and one other major issue (which I'll get to in a second) are likely deal-killers for me.

      Interior: The cloth Recaros are very firm and have big bolsters. You'll either love them or you won't depending on how big you are. These are manual adjust, and you're best off adjusting the seatback angle before you put on your seatbelt--thereafter the lever is lost behind the lap belt, which is annoying.
      Instrument cluster isn't bad, although the design and gauge font is a bit too form over function for me. Color MFD in the center is a nice touch, but at least in the 201B package car it doesn't tell you enough--no real trip computer or redundant radio display (at least that I could figure out)? Why, Ford?
      The center console seems way too big for the size of the car; not sure why it has to be so large, honestly. It's big enough that my right calf was pressed up against it. I think that'd annoy me in the long run. The steering wheel isn't bad, but it's not as thick/grippy as the one in my GTI. The leather also has a weird finish to it. It's ok overall.
      MyFord Touch--ah. Well, V2.0 is definitely better--quicker and a bit more user-friendly. I still didn't find it hugely intuitive, and it was occasionally laggy when switching functions. I was also surprised given this car was equipped with Sync that the Bluetooth audio support didn't give me more control over my Windows Phone device. I know a USB connection would, but it was exactly the same as that in my GTI. Stereo wasn't bad, but given it had the additional subwoofer in the hatch I wasn't as impressed as I thought I might be.

      Now, to the deal-breaker: Rear seat room. The Recaros are BIG, and kill knee/leg room in the rear. I'm 5'11" with a 30" inseam (read: mostly torso) so I didn't have the seat all the way back--far from it. And my knees were jammed into the front seatback. The sales guy was bigger than me, and had the passenger seat farther back/more reclined; there was literally about 4" of room between the front seatback and the front of the rear seat bottom cushion. The GTI totally blows it away in this regard.

      Overall, it's a GREAT drive. Real shame about the backseat space, as that'll keep me in my GTI.



      By comparison, the GTI's shifter is crap, the steering isn't as good, the suspension isn't as well damped, and the engine isn't quite as good--it's a bit peakier when it comes on boost and it has the annoying TSI flat spot off idle. But it does pull very well--I did the same route in my car after driving the Focus and was surprised at how quick it felt (it's not chipped, but does have an exhaust). Overall, I like the interior of the GTI better.

      Funny sidenote: We returned from the testdrive and I parked the ST next to my GTI. There were 3 sales guys standing around my GTI...apparently I inadvertently parked in an area where new/used cars are brought back from detail. I'd cleaned it up a bit yesterday, so I guess they thought it was going on their used lot. One of the guys says, "Why would someone trade this in so quickly?" Heh.
      Last edited by Numbersix; 09-30-2012 at 06:17 PM.

    2. 09-30-2012 06:22 PM #2
      Came in looking for Chris Harris, leaves disappointed.

    3. Member Mr Miyagi's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 06:25 PM #3
      Ugly car.

    4. Senior Member
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      09-30-2012 06:25 PM #4
      Nooooo, that'd be DRIVE.

      And I am no Harrismonkey. Sorry dude.

    5. Member zane!'s Avatar
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      09-30-2012 07:08 PM #5
      HOW DARE YOU turn the car quickly and eagerly, and throw it into a cloverleaf, when the car is not yours! People like you ruin cars blah blah blah

      Awesome little review, I'm also excited to get some seat time in one of these to see how it really feels.

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      09-30-2012 07:12 PM #6
      Quote Originally Posted by zane! View Post
      HOW DARE YOU turn the car quickly and eagerly, and throw it into a cloverleaf, when the car is not yours! People like you ruin cars blah blah blah

      Awesome little review, I'm also excited to get some seat time in one of these to see how it really feels.
      Funny you should say that. When I told the sales guy I wanted to look at the ST, he replied, "Awesome. I've been waiting for someone to come in that wants to look at something interesting all day."

      And when I rev-match downshifted into the cloverleaf, he said, "I can tell you're someone who really enjoys driving--which makes the best test drives. Feel free to throw it into this curve..."

    7. Member Aguilar's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 07:14 PM #7
      I bet is a fun hatch, but I never warmed up to the looks.

    8. Member zane!'s Avatar
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      09-30-2012 07:17 PM #8
      Quote Originally Posted by Numbersix View Post
      Funny you should say that. When I told the sales guy I wanted to look at the ST, he replied, "Awesome. I've been waiting for someone to come in that wants to look at something interesting all day."

      And when I rev-match downshifted into the cloverleaf, he said, "I can tell you're someone who really enjoys driving--which makes the best test drives. Feel free to throw it into this curve..."
      I love playing with test drive cars as long as I get a cool salesman. *Some people* on this site don't think cars should be driven and will bust your balls for test driving a car like they should be driven. They also drive Camry's every day.

      I can't wait until one of these and an AWD Fusion is at the local dealer.

    9. Member batman25's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 08:04 PM #9
      Quote Originally Posted by Remedy View Post
      Came in looking for Chris Harris, leaves disappointed.
      this.....
      Last edited by batman25; 09-30-2012 at 08:25 PM.

    10. Member jepva's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 08:14 PM #10
      Thanks for the write-up. I've been pondering test driving one, but haven't made up my mind if I like the car enough to even do so. Something about the design and color choices is bugging me (tangerine scream = tacky, the silver is blah, red, black, and white might be OK).

      I would definitely have to get it with the full Recaros and HID package (which look quite nice), which rings at about $29k I believe, still cheaper than a similarly equipped Autobahn at that point. But I think given the choice, I'd still take the Autobahn.

      Ford should have tried to make this classier, instead we got something SRT-4 buyers will likely flock too.

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      09-30-2012 08:33 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by jepva View Post
      Ford should have tried to make this classier, instead we got something SRT-4 buyers will likely flock too.
      It's actually not very boy racer in person. The exhaust note is civil until you go WOT at higher revs, the exterior (at least in white) isn't too aggressive, and the interior has a much higher level of finish than most other cars in the class (WRX, I'm looking at you).

      And, honestly, it's a better driver than anything else I can think of. Including my GTI in most respects that matter.

      It loses the practicality contest, though. And that's where things end for me, unfortunately. I still can't figure out how Ford screwed up the interior packaging so badly. It's 5.8 inches longer than the GTI. Where did all the room go?

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      09-30-2012 08:47 PM #12
      Quote Originally Posted by Numbersix View Post
      It's 5.8 inches longer than the GTI. Where did all the room go?
      Trunk space

    13. Member 1985Jetta's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 08:50 PM #13
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr Miyagi View Post
      Ugly car.
      This.

    14. Member Punch Dub's Avatar
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      09-30-2012 09:37 PM #14
      My local dealer had a red base. I had thought about ordering a white base before buying my WRX in May. It was an ordered car, so no test drive. The sales guys were all bragging about spinning the tires through second gear. I bragged about how mine couldn't. Great looking car though.

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      10-01-2012 01:33 AM #15
      I didn't get a chance to sit in a car with the base seats. I understand they are still pretty supportive, and I wonder if they'd give back any precious rear leg/knee room.

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      10-01-2012 01:46 AM #16
      I attended the "Performance Acadamy" this summer at Gillet Stadium, and was very impressed with the ST. Great seats (obviously), smooth shifter, barely any torque steer, and the backend was very playful. I had a blast driving it.

    17. Member matty_peppers's Avatar
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      10-01-2012 01:48 AM #17
      Quote Originally Posted by Numbersix View Post

      Steering/Handling/Ride: Ride is a bit firmer but more controlled than my GTI; by contrast the GTI doesn't feel as well damped. Steering is fantastic; it turns in quickly and eagerly. I'd love to attack a back road with it. The steering does go a bit stiff under hard acceleration; you can feel something attempting to quell torque steer and it does put the steering off. Handling feels very composed, and the one cloverleaf I was able to throw it into you could feel the rear end come out just a bit under lift-off. I could see this car making unexpecting drivers have an moment if they throw it into a similar corner, lift off expecting nothing but understeer, and have it do quite the opposite. Kudos to Ford chassis engineers for pulling that off.
      I got to drive this car spiritedly at an ST Academy HPDE, and thought it was softer than my MS3, and not quite as direct. The car does rotate fantastically, however, and oversteer is induced fairly easily and brings a smile to the face for sure. I thought the brakes were just 'meh' on the auto-x, but they are surely potent enough for anything street driving can throw at 'em.

      Glad to see you had fun, I liked the car a lot and would certainly take a good hard look at it for a more docile DD. However, after driving a FWD hot hatch equipped with an LSD, I can't say I'd like dealing with an e-diff. At the end of the day, when comparing to my ms3, I find myself jealous of the Recaro seats, and not too much else.
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    18. 10-01-2012 02:32 AM #18
      I think the reason the Focus back seat are short in space in because the entire dash is so bulky the front seats had to be place further back. I mean look at all that space, you could set a dinner for 4 on that.


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      10-01-2012 09:50 AM #19
      Quote Originally Posted by numbersix
      I still can't figure out how Ford screwed up the interior packaging so badly. It's 5.8 inches longer than the GTI. Where did all the room go?
      Taurus

    20. Member JCJetta's Avatar
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      10-01-2012 10:19 AM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by Numbersix View Post
      Interior: The cloth Recaros are very firm and have big bolsters. You'll either love them or you won't depending on how big you are.
      That was my biggest issue. While I'm a short guy, I'm also pretty wide, and I couldn't even sit all the way back in to the seats. This car is not meathead friendly, sadly.

    21. 10-01-2012 10:26 AM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by Aguilar View Post
      I bet is a fun hatch, but I never warmed up to the looks.
      Me neither...never really liked the look of the Focus.

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      10-01-2012 10:27 AM #22
      The ST is better looking than the base car...the nose/front grille (which is my biggest issue with the Focus design) works better here. It's certainly more appealing to me overall than the MS3.

    23. Geriatric Member AKADriver's Avatar
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      10-01-2012 10:31 AM #23
      Rear legroom is short for the Focus compared to the class currently, though would've been class-leading a decade ago. It's not due to the Recaros, all the OEM seats are the same way. It has much more rear-seats-up cargo capacity than the Golf, that's where the extra length went. The dash is not more intrusive than normal, the A-pillars are very far forward.
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      10-01-2012 10:46 AM #24
      The cargo area is definitely deeper, but due to the extreme slope of the hatch I'm not sure that the space is as usable with the rear seats up.

      I also nearly hit my head getting into the rear seat due to the curvature of the door opening.

    25. Member MCTB's Avatar
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      10-01-2012 11:45 AM #25
      Does it have a 6th gear? The ONE thing I wish my Focus had was a 6th gear. The 5 speed is a great shifting thing but I wish there was a 6th for highway duty.

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      10-01-2012 12:15 PM #26
      Quote Originally Posted by MCTB View Post
      Does it have a 6th gear? The ONE thing I wish my Focus had was a 6th gear. The 5 speed is a great shifting thing but I wish there was a 6th for highway duty.
      Yes, the ST uses a 6-speed.
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      10-01-2012 12:34 PM #27
      It does have a 6 speed, and 6th makes for reasonably relaxed crusing on the freeway. Shift action is heavier and more precise than the GTI, by far.

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      10-01-2012 02:30 PM #28
      Quote Originally Posted by matty_peppers View Post
      I got to drive this car spiritedly at an ST Academy HPDE, and thought it was softer than my MS3, and not quite as direct. The car does rotate fantastically, however, and oversteer is induced fairly easily and brings a smile to the face for sure. I thought the brakes were just 'meh' on the auto-x, but they are surely potent enough for anything street driving can throw at 'em.

      Glad to see you had fun, I liked the car a lot and would certainly take a good hard look at it for a more docile DD. However, after driving a FWD hot hatch equipped with an LSD, I can't say I'd like dealing with an e-diff. At the end of the day, when comparing to my ms3, I find myself jealous of the Recaro seats, and not too much else.
      Have 1st gen MS3 myself and love the fact that it is relatively 'raw' and has real LSD. Need to go drive one soon, but how was the engine braking? Low gearing in MS3 really helps in bumper-bumper commute. When I had the SVT Focus, that's one thing I hated about it, lack of engine braking, felt like a slushbox. I like the thought of recaros, moonroof, and extra gauges on the ST.

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      10-01-2012 02:36 PM #29
      Quote Originally Posted by mrdouble View Post
      how was the engine braking? Low gearing in MS3 really helps in bumper-bumper commute.
      I didn't notice any issues with it when I was driving in slow traffic; seems fine. It was more the heavier clutch that released very near the floor (compared to my GTI, that is. Got back in the GTI and mashed the clutch pedal to the floor!).

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      10-01-2012 03:19 PM #30
      Quote Originally Posted by Numbersix View Post
      Now, to the deal-breaker: Rear seat room. The Recaros are BIG, and kill knee/leg room in the rear. I'm 5'11" with a 30" inseam (read: mostly torso) so I didn't have the seat all the way back--far from it. And my knees were jammed into the front seatback. The sales guy was bigger than me, and had the passenger seat farther back/more reclined; there was literally about 4" of room between the front seatback and the front of the rear seat bottom cushion. The GTI totally blows it away in this regard.
      I very seriously contemplated getting a Focus hatch last year but the back seat was nearly useless for me and my 2 kids. I'm 6'2" with a 34 inseam and neither of my kids sit behind me.


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      10-01-2012 03:24 PM #31
      When I did this with the Mazdaspeed3 and my MK3 GTI, I ended up buying one less than a month later.

      Beware.
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      10-01-2012 05:20 PM #32
      Quote Originally Posted by DISI 2.3T View Post
      When I did this with the Mazdaspeed3 and my MK3 GTI, I ended up buying one less than a month later.

      Beware.
      That's the problem with these impromptu test drives. I'm afraid I'll drive the ST and walk out with a Mustang GT.

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      10-01-2012 05:35 PM #33
      Quote Originally Posted by FlashRedGLS1.8T View Post
      I very seriously contemplated getting a Focus hatch last year but the back seat was nearly useless for me and my 2 kids. I'm 6'2" with a 34 inseam and neither of my kids sit behind me.

      I sat in the back of one at the last auto show and was really disappointed by the leg room (I'm average height). I'm more disappointed that it wasn't just my imagination.
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    34. 10-01-2012 05:40 PM #34
      I am really disappointed to hear about the back seat room in the Focus. That said, I don't really use my back seat, but the room back there is a huge plus for the GTI since it makes the car very usable.

      I also agree that the shifter in the GTI sucks. The SHO has a very mechanical feeling linkage, one I wish the GTI emulated (if not the stiff shift action and general balky demenor of the SHO's box).

      I also wish the GTI were maybe 15 - 20% more playful. As it is, its a little too buttoned down for my tastes, which I suppose is why it is so easy to live with day to day.

      GReat review. I will have to go check one out.
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    35. Member MAGICGTI's Avatar
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      10-01-2012 07:02 PM #35
      I'm known to be a sucker for white cars, and DAMN does that pic make me want to go out and look at them. Found my MKVI too tame so this could be a fun ride...
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